26 February 2007

Every Child Matters

The Institute for Public Policy Research today claims that Academies, Foundation schools, Trust schools, and faith schools have no reason to be their own admissions authorities, other than to select students by ability. This, we are told, is a bad thing because the schools are more segregated than their neighbourhoods.

Yet, if so many of the Church's 4620 schools are over-subscribed, they are clearly providing something that parents are seeking and are presumably unable to find in other schools. David Cameron says he wants to send his daughter to a church school as he fears she might "get lost" in an enormous state primary. Other parents identify their desire for the school to provide a moral compass as the reason behind their preference for a faith school. Tony Blair, whose children all went to faith schools, believes expanding religious schools would raise standards. Critics argue that the real draw is the higher academic standards often attained by such schools, as though success is somehow a problem.

It was the Church that first introduced schooling for the poor and constant Government interference in the education system over recent years has done nothing for morale or standards. Diversity encourages excellence and parents must be allowed a continued choice of schools. Perhaps even more importantly, gifted pupils and pupils with special needs deserve better, more individual instruction than they can receive if placed in a class that simply caters for the "average" child. Failure to enable each child to achieve their potential and thereby to contribute to society will cause more serious problems for local communities than any politically correct imposition of uniformity will manage to address.

One-third of all secondary schools are in charge of their own admissions process, and the vast majority of these are church schools.